Republican John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives,
told Obama last week that his chamber would not vote on immigration
reform this year, killing chances that a wide-ranging bill passed by
the Senate would become law.
The collapse of the legislative process delivers another in a series
of blows to Obama's domestic policy agenda and comes as he struggles
to deal with a flood of unaccompanied minors from Central America
who have entered the United States.
It also sets up a new battle with congressional Republicans, who
accuse Obama of going beyond his legal authority to take executive
action on issues such as gay rights and equal pay for women and men.
Obama chided Republicans for refusing to bring immigration reform to
a vote and said only legislation could provide a permanent fix to
“The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our
security, it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for our future,"
Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.
"America cannot wait forever for them to act. That’s why today I’m
beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I
can on my own."
The president directed Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson
and Attorney General Eric Holder to move enforcement resources from
the U.S. interior to the border. A White House official said the
administration would look at ways to ensure the deportation process
was focused on national security priorities and that more
investigative teams were available to prosecute smugglers bringing
people across the border.
Obama asked his team to prepare recommendations on other actions he
can take unilaterally by the end of the summer.
The president has pushed for reform that would create a path to
citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants within the
United States. The Senate bill had such provisions, but Republicans
in the House largely opposed them as amounting to amnesty for people
who entered the country illegally.
Immigration activists, frustrated with the administration's
deportation practices, pressed Obama to make his executive actions
“We are pleased that President Obama finally understands that
Speaker John Boehner has officially allowed the extreme wing of the
(Republican Party) to kill the best chance for immigration reform
legislation in decades," said PICO National Network, a religious and
community organizing group, in a statement. "We hope that now that
the facts are straight, President Obama will do the job Congress
failed to do."
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Monday was another chapter in a long test of wills between Obama and
Boehner, who have battled over healthcare, deficits, government
spending and gun control.
Boehner inflamed tensions last week by announcing he was considering
a lawsuit charging the president for overstepping constitutional
boundaries with his executive actions.
A Boehner spokesman said the two leaders spoke in person about
immigration last week.
“Speaker Boehner told the president exactly what he has been telling
him: the American people and their elected officials don't trust him
to enforce the law as written," spokesman Michael Steel said. "Until
that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this
The president sent a letter to Congress on Monday asking for
additional resources to deal with the problem of unaccompanied
minors entering the country and creating a humanitarian crisis.
That crisis and the death of reform legislation puts Obama in the
awkward position of studying new ways to help the undocumented
workers who have been in the country for years while getting tougher
on juveniles who are entering now.
The White House had held out hope that House Republicans would move
on immigration reform this summer before November congressional
elections. It delayed a review over changes to U.S. deportation
policy to give lawmakers space to pursue a legislative solution.
Many members of Congress have predicted that if legislation is not
enacted this year, new attempts would have to wait until 2017 after
a new president takes office.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Mark Felsenthal, and Annika
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